Damn Right, We're Angry
March 14, 2007
Paul Waldman is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America and the author of the new book, Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Can Learn From Conservative Success. The views expressed here are his own.
We can’t deny it any longer. There’s no point in hiding it, no point in trying to explain it away. Yes, it’s true: We progressives are angry. And we no longer care if the centrist, moderate guardians of the establishment scold us for it.
Our anger is not just some vague feeling whose source we can’t put our finger on. It isn’t based on absurd conspiracy theories and it isn’t illogical.
We’re angry because of what has happened to our country, because of how we’ve been treated, and because of the innumerable crimes the conservatives have committed. We’re angry at the president, we’re angry at the Congress, we’re angry at the news media. And we have every right to be.
Yes, we’re angry at George W. Bush. We’re not angry at him because of who he sleeps with, and we’re not angry at him because we think he represents some socio-cultural movement we didn’t like 40 years ago, or because he hung out with a different crowd than we did in high school. We’re angry at him because of what he’s done.
It’s true, we don’t like the fact that the most powerful human being on the planet is such a ridiculous buffoon that he can’t put two coherent sentences together without beginning to giggle and shimmy his shoulders. But we’re not angry because we think he’s stupid; we’re angry because he treats us as though we’re stupid. We’re angry that he lied to us, and lied to us and lied to us again. We’re angry that when he lies to us it isn’t because he’s caught up in scandal or got caught doing something he shouldn’t have, it’s part of a carefully constructed plan to fool the public.
Yes, we’re angry about Iraq, and we may be for the rest of our lives. We get angry every day when we open our newspapers and see the photo of another young soldier who died for this, another one maimed for life, another one with a tormented and broken soul. We’re angry about the couple of trillion dollars this war will cost. We’re angry about the thousands of young men around the world have been driven into the arms of al Qaeda, who have decided to devote their lives to killing Americans because of this war. We’re angry about the thousands upon thousands of Iraqis who have died in the orgy of bloodshed we unleashed, and the living too, those whom we said we were coming to “liberate,” but who now find themselves in a suffocating, endless miasma of fear and misery and death.
We’re angry that when we talk about ending this monstrous war, the soulless hypocrites who are glad to send more and more men and women to be scarred and maimed and killed in Iraq have the gall to accuse us of not “supporting the troops.” We’re angry that people whose actions exhibit nothing but contempt for freedom and liberty and justice, who wouldn’t know real patriotism if it came up and smacked them across the face, pin a little flag on their lapel and say that we’re the ones who hate America.
We’re angry because people who said the Iraqis would greet us as liberators, who said Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were good buddies, who said this nightmare of a war would bring a flowering of democracy across the Middle East—this band of idiots, the Kristols and the Krauthammers and the Kagans and the Kondrackes, is treated as “serious” and “credible” on matters of national security, while those of us who were right about the war are dismissed as some sort of fringe whose ideas are too silly to listen to.
We’re angry that America may now be the only country in the world in which torture is an officially sanctioned policy, proclaimed proudly in public. We’re angry that in our name prisoners are subjected to sleep deprivation, water boarding and other forms of psychological torture to the point where they are literally driven mad. We’re angry that the president has decided, over 750 times, that if Congress passes a law and he doesn’t like it, he’ll just ignore it. We’re angry that this administration has argued over and over, in public and in court, that if the president does it, it’s not illegal. We’re angry that they tell us we have to shred our freedoms in order to be safe, and that so many of our fellow citizens shrug their shoulders and think it’s no big deal.
And we’re angry that Bush has made our nation so hated around the world. We’re angry that the next time a Democrat gets elected, most of their time will be spent cleaning up the god-awful mess Bush has made of everything.
We’re angry that we and our children and our grandchildren will have to keep paying off the nation’s debt, which now stands at nearly $9 trillion. We’re angry because every other industrialized country in the world has a single-payer health care system that works, and we pay more for ours than any of them, yet we have 45 million people with no health insurance. We’re angry that the insurance companies have convinced their obedient servants in Congress that the Rube Goldberg perpetual paperwork machine we have now is somehow “the best health care in the world” and preferable to a system in which you go to your doctor, get treated and go home, without having to fill out 10 forms and get down on your knees before the gods of the HMO bureaucracy to get a partial repayment minus your deductible and your co-pay.
We’re angry that the federal government is brimming with people fundamentally opposed to the mission of the agencies over which they preside, the anti-environmentalists who run the Interior department, the mining company lobbyists in charge of mine safety and the union-busters in charge of worker safety. We’re still angry about Hurricane Katrina, that our government left thousands of its citizens stranded to suffer and die, while the president thought that the guy presiding over the disastrous failure was doing a heckuva job. We’re angry that our government sends religious fundamentalists around the world to discourage condom use, thus condemning untold numbers of people to unwanted pregnancy, disease and death.
We’re angry that forty years after the Voting Rights Act, the Republican Party continues to exploit racism and do everything in its power to stop black people from voting in each and every election. We’re angry that in the richest country in the world we can’t seem to find our way to a system in which you go to the polls, cast your ballot and know that it will be counted. And yes, we’re still angry about what happened in Florida in 2000, that through lying and cheating and pure luck the Republicans were able to steal a presidential election, and five unprincipled partisans on the Supreme Court helped them do it. We’re angry that every time we look at Al Gore all that pain and frustration and outrage comes bubbling up through our guts no matter how hard we try to “get over it.”
We’re angry that some of the most powerful people in America see nothing wrong with getting down on their knees to kiss the rings of radical clerics espousing a theology as maniacal as any on earth. We’re angry that we have to endure lecture after lecture on “family values” from people who rush from their pulpits, whether in church or in Congress or on cable chat shows, to a motel room to give in to their desires and revel in their transgression before rushing back to those pulpits to wag a finger in all our faces with talk of sin. We’re angry that people whose souls are so twisted by hate and shame they make John Winthrop look like Wavy Gravy have the nerve to tell us how to live “moral” lives.
We’re angry that when some pompous fool who less than a decade ago demanded that Bill Clinton be impeached in order to demonstrate our fealty to the “rule of law” comes on television to explain how I. Scooter Libby’s perjury and obstruction of justice mean nothing and he must immediately be pardoned, Wolf Blitzer doesn’t say, “Get out of this studio, you contemptible hypocrite, and don’t ever come back.”
We’re angry because a repellent ghoul like Ann Coulter can regularly advocate the murder of people with whom she has political differences, yet continue to get invited on NBC's "Today" show. We’re angry that journalists who ought to know better tut-tut progressive bloggers for using dirty words but don’t blink an eye when conservatives spew forth the most abominable hatred and calls for violence that one could imagine.
We’re angry that there is not a single show on cable news in which a progressive is given an hour to spout off his or her opinions, but that privilege is given to the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and John Gibson and Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarborough and all the other two-bit electronic hucksters of phony aggrievement.
We’re angry because snake-oil salesmen like William Donohue— despite being an anti-Semitic homophobe —can issue a press release expressing patently phony outrage about something somebody said, and get the mainstream press to jump like trained dogs. We’re angry because a band of liars like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth can hoodwink the media into doing their dirty work for them. We’re angry because every despicable Republican attack gets recycled as knowing, arched-eyebrow commentary by “mainstream” commentators.
Those are a few of the things we’re angry about, and yes, that’s a lot of anger. But you know what? There’s nothing wrong with being angry. Anger is the appropriate reaction to moral outrages, to crimes against our common humanity, to the actions of those who would turn our country into something twisted and ugly.